Growing up I loved Imran Khan. I was very young, innocent, and possibly very naive when he started campaigning for Shaukat Khanum. I asked no questions. All I wanted to do was raise the most money in my school, and receive a certificate of appreciation from the great man. I first pestered my immediate family, then my extended family, and in the end no one was spared. I was on a roll. I raised enough money to earn a certificate, and continued after that. Shaukat Khanum became a reality owing to the youth, innocence, and naïvety of many individuals like me.
When Imran Khan entered politics I fell out of love. For seventeen years, he says, he has fought for Pakistan, for almost seventeen years I have not loved him.
Today, I fell in love with him again, or at least I realized that I never fell out of love. People often say that you truly appreciate your loved ones once they are not part of your life, for a few agonizing hours today I understood what people often say. That still left my, in fact our, love for IK unexplained. I am a stickler for explanations, and I could not resist.
To reach an explanation I compared the passionate supporters of PTI with those of PML(N). The first important difference I noticed was that the supporters of PML(N) had a very limited circle of concern, compared to the PTI supporters. While the PTI supporters were concerned about Pakistan, the others were only concerned about their own interests. From small businessmen who strongly believed that the Sharif brothers would somehow benefit their class; to individuals with social capital in terms of connections with PML (N) candidates; to the disempowered who had always supported this group, and feeling emasculated by the current socio-economic circumstances ritualistically resisted ‘change’ by opting for PML (N). PTI supporters on the other hand dreamt of a prosperous Pakistan, never eyeing individual or class specific benefits, but benefits for every citizen of this nation.
There are other important differences as well, but I am going to limit myself to one more, and this in my estimation is the single most important factor. There are two kinds of individuals in the world, those who have the ability to see fault in themselves, and those who are blind to their faults.
The PML (N) supporters have not realized, “that we have seen the enemy, and it is us”. The problem with Pakistan is that it is full of Pakistanis of a specific kind. We are responsible, each and every one of us, for the state of our country. People who are in denial of this basic fact flock behind PML (N), a party that does not point an accusing finger at them. This party has had multiple chances, but the well-meaning (but stupid) individuals in this party have a very generous benign view of themselves, and their role in destroying our nation. It is only because of this blindness that they participate with fervor instead of lowering their heads in shame. And Pakistanis who refuse to take any blame support this party.
PTI supporters are cognizant of this reality. They know that they share the blame, and now the responsibility to own up and change. Every PTI supporter I have met has taken himself to account. IK for them is a symbol of transformation, not just for the country, but individually. We love him because he is a mirror to us. We see a reflection of ourselves, a better self. A different kind of Pakistani. A citizen who talks about responsibility before rights. It is a beautiful image of us, one devoid of the ugliness of unbridled self-interest. Our transformation hinges on IK’s success, and the future of our nation depends on our transformation. It is easy to blame other political parties for goading us on this path of destruction, but very difficult to accept our complicity.
Our political leaders are mirrors that reflect who we are, and often, who we want to be. My love for IK stems from my desire to be a better Pakistani!